Empire reigns for Cooper and Elliott in Troytown Chase
Cheltenham Festival hero Empire Of Dirt was a runaway winner of the Ladbrokes Troytown Handicap Chase at Navan.
The Gigginstown House Stud-owned nine-year-old won the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate at Prestbury Park in March and with trainer Colm Murphy having since retired from the sport, Empire Of Dirt made his first start for Gordon Elliott in this fiercely-competitive handicap.
Sent off a 12-1 chance in the hands of Bryan Cooper under a big weight, Empire Of Dirt was always travelling strongly and moved smoothly into contention from the home turn.
He cruised to the front between the final two fences and pinged the last before pulling readily clear to complete a treble on the afternoon for Cooper and a four-timer for Elliott, who saddled a staggering 11 runners in the 25-strong field.
Abolitionist was second, ahead of admirable mare Bonny Kate in third and Elliott's 7-2 favourite Noble Endeavor in fourth.
Cooper said: "He did it very well. To be fair, when he won in Cheltenham I felt he could still be well enough handicapped and there'd be another one in him.
"My biggest problem today was getting around, as he has a bit of a problem with jumping at times.
"He was a bit keen early doors, but I got loads of cover and I knew going to the third-last he was going to win.
"I was probably doing a shade more than I wanted to early on, but thankfully he had a good look at his fences today, as he was just charging a little bit.
"He was graded class over hurdles and it just took him a while to get his jumping together over fences, but he's with the right man."
Boylesports make Empire Of Dirt a 33-1 shot for the Grand National and Elliott confirmed the Aintree spectacular is now high on his agenda.
He said: "It's been a lucky race for me and we have won it for the last three years now. It's the big race at my local track, and to have the first and fourth is brilliant. It was hard to keep an eye on all the horses!
"He came highly recommended from Colm Murphy, and really I've only had to keep him sound in his training.
"We'll look at the Grand National with him now. That will be his long term aim and he won't have to do a lot between now and then as he's high enough (in the ratings).
"He could have a run over hurdles."
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Source: At The Races